Nikki 's Reviews > The Bull from the Sea

The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault
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's review
May 28, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: greek-roman, historical-fiction-alternatehistory

The Bull from the Sea is quite similar to The King Must Die, and is an immediate sequel to it. I started it with less hope than I began The King Must Die, and ended up skimming most of it because I just don't like Theseus -- I don't like his self-justifications, his treatment of women, his self-absorption... If we're meant to like him, Mary Renault has failed, in my view.

Is he realistic, for his time period, does he match with what I know of the myth? Yes, I'd say. And Mary Renault's attention to detail is fantastic: I feel as if I've seen the scenes and characters she describes. It's just the narrator she's chosen, for the most part, that makes me dislike this book.

Maybe I'll enjoy Mary Renault's work better with a different cast of characters. I have her books about Alexander to read, at some point.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Lucinda Elliot Hey, Nikki, what a relief to find anoher women who is as horrified by Theseus' awful attiude to woman as I am! I was so depressed by how few women seem to be offended by this, and to give glowing reviews.

I would expect an ancient Greek patriarch to be sexist, but I came increasingly to suspect that Renault symapthised with Theseus' views.

I was particularly repelled by Theseus' treatment of poor Phaedra and his murder of her by slow throttling was purely horrible.

It is noteworthy that the book is called 'The King Must Die' and yet with regard to Perspehone and Phaedra, it should be called,'The Queen Must Die'.

I became more and more depressed ploughing through these books - they made me feel demeaned as a woman - and I noted that the only women that Theseus seems to respect are boyish.

I did a bit of research and my fears were confirmed (David Sweetman's biography, Carolyn Heilburn's section in her book) Mary Renault admitted to despising women,for all she lived most of her life with another woman. I suppose it is a case of 'internalised misogyny.'

Do let me know what you think...


Nikki One can write characters with repellent views and not believe in them, but it seems Mary Renault did subscribe to the same views as the character she wrote, from what you say. So, yes, internalised misogyny -- sadly enough.

message 3: by Lucinda (last edited Jun 04, 2016 12:31PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lucinda Elliot Hi, Nikki!
Yes, inernalised misogyny is sad indeed.
I was horrified to read reviews on Amazon where men were suggesting that boys take Theseus as a role model(!!!) and so many women don't seem to have any problem with his smug account of disempowering women or his contemptuous remarks about them. One critic even says that you feel that Phaedra deserved her horrible end. I am so perturbed by what this shows of how far we have to go on the position of women that I almost wish I hadn't read them.

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